“Wherever they need outs, I’ll get outs. I don’t care about stats. I don’t care about numbers. It’s winning, dude. I want to win. However they see me helping them win is what I want to do.”
From the jump, Matt Strahm let us know what he was about. Need a guy to put out a fire in the sixth? Strahm’s your guy. Need two solid innings in the back half of the game to give the other guys in the bullpen a rest? Strahm’s your guy. Hell, the rotation’s banged up and you need an opener you can trust one time through the lineup? Look no further than Matthew Scott Strahm.
No one could have guessed when Strahm signed last December that he’d open the season as the team’s fifth starter but there he was, filling in valiantly for a team who’d already gone through multiple backup plans by the time he landed in that spot. Strahm knew he’d be here at some point. He told the media at his opening press conference that he wanted an opportunity to start again but certainly even he didn’t think it would be so soon.
The experiment didn’t last past the first week of May but Strahm was mostly effective out of the bullpen last year, even getting three of the season’s most important outs in the playoffs to vanquish a hated rival.
2023 regular season stats - 56 appearances, 87.2 IP, 9-5 record (2-3 as starter), 3.29 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 131 ERA+
2023 postseason stats - 7 appearances, 5.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 K
In his first month as a starter since 2019, Strahm was much better than expected, posting a 2.31 ERA and a 12.34 K/9 and looking like the team’s SP3. While it was short-lived, it was an important part of keeping the team afloat while they rounded into form.
Taking just his relief appearances into account, Strahm led the Phillies’ bullpen with 1.99 BB/9, good for 15th in all of MLB among qualified relievers. His 5.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio was 5th-best by that same measure.
Strahm got the save in Game 4 of the NLDS, the biggest moment of his career, bar none. After Ranger Suarez went five innings to start, shaky outings from the bullpen’s big four arms gave way to ninth inning heroics from Strahm. Inheriting two baserunners from Gregory Soto, Cool Calm Strahm got three straight outs to send the Phillies on to the NLCS and the Braves to Cancún.
Matt Strahm, Wicked 82mph Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 13, 2023
Phillies Advance. pic.twitter.com/fg7LGuZ4N9
Strahm threw way too many innings this year compared to his previous seasons. His 87.2 innings this year were his most since 2019 (114.2) and almost twice as many as he threw in 2022. It seemed like it caught up with him in May and June where he was one of the worst relievers in baseball for about a month. From May 23rd to June 18th, he had the 8th-worst ERA among relievers (7.88) and a league-worst 10.13 FIP, allowing 5 home runs over 8 innings.
For what it’s worth, Strahm also had an above-average LOB% (82.2%) and below-average BABIP (.267) which would suggest that he’ll see some regression in terms of allowing baserunners to score in the future.
Strahm, who turned 32 last month, will be a UFA after the upcoming season and barring a really great year, I doubt that he’ll be back. He seems like a great guy and teammate so I hope I’m wrong but it’s more likely that they sign someone cheaper and younger next offseason.
For this season, Strahm will be a vital piece of this bullpen. He’s the team’s Swiss-army knife and Topper trusts him to eat innings and occasionally spell the closer committee. He’ll probably even start another game or two next year in a pinch and that’s fine. Even though he was solid in his brief stint in the rotation, it would be ill-advised to let him do more than spot-start, no matter how much he wants to. All told, he’ll do whatever they ask him to because that’s the kind of guy he is.